Monday, December 22, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #80

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the end of last year, the Volgograd bombings highlighted that Russia is still struggling with the foreign-backed insurgency in the North Caucasus and 2014 ends on a similar note due to this month's clashes in the Chechen capital Grozny. Although the overall security situation in the North Caucasus has improved significantly over the years, the attacks in Volgograd last year as well as the attacks in Grozny in October and December of this year serve as a stark reminder that terrorists can strike at any time, anywhere in the region. Violence in Russia's volatile south has long been associated with Chechnya but the neighboring Republic of Dagestan has become Russia's hot spot of insurgent activity in recent years. The leaders of the Dagestani insurgency just pledged loyalty to ISIS, defying the leader of the Caucasus Emirate and perhaps spelling more trouble for Russia's security services. One of the frequent special operations in Dagestan resulted last week in the killing of the leader of a terrorist group linked to the 2013 Volgograd bombings and a number of other attacks in Dagestan. While the Dagestani authorities have their work cut out, the Chechen authorities are free to support the resistance in eastern Ukraine and, unperturbed by the attacks in Grozny, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov announced this week that he wants to focus more on Ukraine:
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wants to quit his high post to go to help militias in Donbas

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on Tuesday that he wanted to quit his high state post and leave for Ukraine’s Donbas region to help the local militias, the NTV channel reported on its website.

Commenting on initiation of criminal proceedings against him in Ukraine and Kiev’s threats to put him on the international wanted list, Kadyrov told NTV’s “Bez Kupyur” (Without Banknotes) program that they could keep wagging their tongues for as long as they liked.

“They can keep saying whatever they like. But I am going to ask the (Russian) president for permission to quit my post in order to go to Donbass to protect the interests of those citizens who are fighting there now,” Kadyrov said.
© Photo RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin

Monday, December 15, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #79

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

While U.S. President Barack Obama is still trying to convince the public that Russia is completely isolated, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid official visits to Uzbekistan and India, strengthening Russia's ties with the two countries. On December 10, the Russian President traveled to Tashkent, where he held talks with his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov. Putin's visit was a show of support for Karimov ahead of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Uzbekistan, which could get interesting for a change given that Karimov has not stated whether he will stand for re-election as president. Russian-Uzbek relations have been tense since the end of the Soviet Union and the Karimov regime has always been a difficult partner for Russia but the Kremlin is now looking to forge closer ties with Uzbekistan, regardless of who is running the country. The two presidents signed an important agreement, significantly reducing Uzbekistan's debt to Russia in order to pave the way for new loans from Moscow, which are intended for a particular purpose [emphasis mine]:
Russia Cozies Up to Uzbekistan With $865 Million Debt Write-Off

Russia on Wednesday wrote off $865 million of debt owed by Uzbekistan as President Vladimir Putin sought to bolster ties between the former Soviet republics during a one-day visit to the country, news agency TASS reported.

The agreement, which was signed in the presence of Putin and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov, freed Uzbekistan from almost all of its $890 million debt to Russia. Uzbekistan will have to pay just $25 million, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Wednesday.

Presidential aide Yury Ushakov said Wednesday that settling the debt issue will allow Russia to expand sales of arms and military equipment in the country, TASS reported.
© Photo AFP

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #78

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of October, a suicide bombing struck the Chechen capital Grozny, reminding the Chechen and Russian authorities that the foreign-backed insurgency in the North Caucasus, which has been largely confined to Dagestan in recent years, could also rear its ugly head again in Chechnya. Although Chechen police stopped the suicide bomber in time to prevent a far more devastating attack, the bombing sent a strong message because it happened in peaceful Grozny on October 5, when Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was celebrating his birthday, residents of Grozny were celebrating City Day and Muslims around the world were celebrating Eid al-Adha. After the attack in October, which left five police officers dead and twelve wounded, things returned to normal in Chechnya but this week, on the eve of Vladimir Putin's annual state-of-the-nation address, Grozny was again the center of attention as heavy fighting rocked the city, calling to mind the violence in the 1990s:
Gun Battle Breaks Out In Grozny, Chechnya, Leaving At Least 19 Dead

Security forces in the capital of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya stormed two buildings, including a school, in fierce gun battles with militants early Thursday that left at least 19 dead, authorities said.
 
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said militants traveling in three cars entered the republic's capital, Grozny, at 1 a.m., killing three traffic police at a checkpoint, and then occupied the 10-story Press House in the center of the city. The federal agency said six gunmen were killed inside the building, which was gutted in a blazing fire that also spread to a nearby market.

More gunmen were later found in a nearby school and security forces were sent to "liquidate" them, the agency said. No students or teachers were in the school when it was seized by the militants, RIA Novosti quoted vice principal Islam Dzhabrailov as saying.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gladio B and the Battle for Eurasia

Studium Generale Groningen recently hosted a lecture series on "The Battle for Resources," which ended with an excellent presentation by James Corbett on Operation Gladio B. In this presentation, James Corbett lifts the lid on Gladio B, its covert operatives, and the secret battle for the Eurasian heartland (transcript and sources):

Monday, December 1, 2014

Porkins Great Game: Episode #3 - Afghan Withdrawal, Kyrgyz Maidan & Trouble in Georgia

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I talk all things Afghanistan: the booming opium production, Turkmenistan's invasion, NATO's "withdrawal" and China's growing role in the war-torn country. We also examine the possibility of a Euromaidan-style color revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the sacking of Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, which caused a great stir in Brussels and Washington.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #77

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

In May of this year, China launched a one-year-long no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign in its far-western Xinjiang region after a major terrorist attack had struck Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, killing 43 people and wounding more than 90. In the last six months, the Chinese authorities have been arresting everyone and his brother to stop the violence in Xinjiang, including prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of advocating separatism and inciting ethnic hatred. Western governments and media did their best to highlight Tohti's imprisonment and called repeatedly for his release, to no avail. Last week, a court in Urumqi upheld the life sentence and a few days later the same court opened separatism trials for seven of Tohti's students. While Western media criticized the latest act of Chinese repression, Chinese media lauded the results of the first six months of the anti-terror campaign. According to China's Ministry of Public Security, 115 terrorist cells were quashed and more than 300 suspects detained. But only a few days after the ministry released its report, another terrorist attack reminded everyone that the violence continues:
15 killed, 14 injured in Xinjiang terrorist attack

Fifteen people, including 11 mobsters, were killed and 14 people were injured in a terrorist attack in Shache County on Friday afternoon in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local authorities announced in a statement on Saturday.

The mobsters threw out explosive devices and attacked civilians with knives at a food street in the county around 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Police patrolling nearby killed 11 of them.
A number of explosive devices, knives and axes were found at the scene.
© Photo AFP

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #76

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

So-called color revolutions have long been used by the United States to replace governments all over the world with more pliable alternatives if the respective leaders have outlived their usefulness or antagonized Washington, the most recent example being the Euromaidan in Ukraine. After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, the U.S. and its allies launched Orange Revolution 2.0 to ensure Kiev's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration and to nip Ukraine's accession to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the bud. On November 21, Ukrainians gathered in Kiev to mark the first anniversary of the start of the fateful anti-government protests, which have plunged the country into war, leading to a new confrontation between Russia and the West. In light of the developments in Ukraine, many governments are increasingly alarmed at color revolutions. Especially Russian officials have been repeatedly warning against this "new form of warfare" in recent months. A few days ago, President Putin urged Russian security chief to do everything necessary to prevent a color revolution in Russia and the issue was also high on the agenda during this week's talks between Russian and Chinese defense ministers:
Russia, China should jointly counter "color revolutions" — Russian Defense Ministry

Russia and China should jointly stand against “color revolutions” which both countries are facing, a deputy Russian defence minister said after talks between Russian and Chinese defence chiefs on Tuesday.

“We focused on those events which have recently taken place in Hong Kong, and both ministers acknowledged that no country is immune from ‘color revolutions,’” Anatoly Antonov said.

“It only seems that these “color revolutions” and these experiments by Western spin doctors, including those from the United States, are being implemented somewhere far from China or the Russian Federation,” Antonov said. “All this is in fact near us, and we believe that Russia and China should work together to withstand this new security challenge to our countries.
© Photo Xinhua/Gao Jie

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #75

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Three months ago, Armenia and Azerbaijan were on the brink of all-out war after the worst clashes in years over the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan had left more than a dozen soldiers dead. Russian President Vladimir Putin brought both sides to the negotiating table to prevent a further escalation of the conflict and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev readily agreed to postpone the recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, which fueled speculation that Baku had provoked the clashes for political reasons. Azerbaijan has shown a pattern of provoking such events in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict. Moreover, the escalation of violence in late July/early August coincided with a crackdown on human rights activists and NGOs. After this short period of heavy fighting the situation calmed down and last month French President Francois Hollande hosted "constructive" talks between Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan. The two leaders agreed to continue the dialogue to find a negotiated peace to the Karabakh conflict but this week's downing of an Armenian helicopter doesn't bode well for the shaky peace process:
Azerbaijan shoots down Armenian helicopter
The armed forces of Azerbaijan shot down and destroyed an Armenian military helicopter in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Wednesday, the defense ministries of both countries said.

The incident threatened to set off another cycle of violence between the two South Caucasus neighbors over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but along with some surrounding territory has been under the control of Armenian soldiers and local Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire.

Nagorno-Karabakh said the helicopter belonged to its armed forces and was on a training flight near the cease-fire line. All three crew members on board were killed, a high-ranking officer with the Nagorno-Karabakh forces told the AP. The officer was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #74

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Russia's southern neighbor und staunch NATO ally Georgia has been hitting the headlines on a daily basis in recent weeks. While Georgian officials were still freaking out over Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, inspired by the treaty offered to its separatist twin, began to draw up a similar agreement meant to insert the disputed territory into the Russian Federation. Tbilisi tried to win back the two regions by offering them broad autonomy and to share the prospective benefits of Georgia’s integration with the EU, but to no avail. To make matters worse, the Georgian government didn't even have the time to comprehend that Georgia is about to lose Abkhazia and South Ossetia once and for all because the country is facing yet another crisis. It all started with the arrest of five former and current officials of the Defense Ministry and general staff of the armed forces, who are accused of contract-rigging and thereby defrauding the state of $2.34 million. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who was visiting France and Germany at the time, got behind the detained officals and condemned the arrests in the strongest possible terms after his return:
Georgia: Defense Minister Claims NATO Plans under Threat

Georgia’s NATO-membership plans have come under attack from within the the country's government itself, embattled Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania claimed on November 4, as a crisis over investigations into his ministry deepens within the ruling coalition.

Alasania, rated as Georgia’s favorite political figure, declared in a televised briefing that prosecutors’ sudden spate of inquiries into the defense ministry’s work is politically motivated. After the arrest of five former and current ministry officials last week as part of a probe into a tender, prosecutors today filed criminal charges against three army medical officers in a food-poisoning case.

“This is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice. This is an attack on the agency with an outstanding record in achieving our foreign policy goals,” Alasania asserted. “I will not be intimidated by the prosecutors or by mud-slinging by certain media groups,” he added.
© Photo Georgian Ministry of Defense

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #73

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After performing a pilgrimage to Mecca and holding talks with King Abdullah and other high-level Saudi officials on his first foreign trip since since taking office in September, Afghanistan's newly selected president Ashraf Ghani travelled to China for an important four-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two neighboring countries. As the NATO-led forces are reducing their presence in Afghanistan, Kabul is looking east for foreign investment while Beijing is trying to ensure stability in the region. On the first day of his visit, Ghani met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called for "a new era of cooperation in China-Afghanistan relations." The two leaders agreed on a new long-term partnership and given that Beijing is alarmed at the prospect of a failed state or a civil war right on China's doorstep, Ghani didn't have a hard time in securing some desperately needed investments:
China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan

China has pledged two billion yuan ($327 million) in aid to Afghanistan, which is seeking new sources of foreign help amid a drawdown of U.S. troops and increasing worries about regional instability.

The offer of aid through 2017 came after China’s President Xi Jinping and newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met in Beijing on Tuesday, according to a joint declaration published Wednesday by China’s foreign ministry. Beijing and Kabul also agreed to step up intelligence sharing to fight drug trafficking and address other cross-border issues.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Porkins Great Game: Episode #2 - Crisis in the Caucasus and Mysterious Crashes

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I discuss briefly the appointment of Jens Stoltenberg as new Secretary General of NATO before we move on to the conflicts brewing in the Caucasus region. We talk about the significance of this month's suicide bombing in the Chechen capital Grozny as well as Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. Later we also take a look at the mysterious crashes of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie and Press TV reporter Serena Shim before we close out with a humorous look at CIA (and Gladio B) operative Graham Fuller’s futile attempts to change his public image by way of the Huffington Post.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #72

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Every day, the new star in the world of takfiri terrorist groups, the Islamic State aka ISIL aka ISIS aka Da'ish, is dominating the headlines. Western media is eager to highlight every atrocity committed by ISIS while similar crimes committed by the "moderate Syrian rebels" have been swept under the rug for years and are still being ignored. The "Syrian rebels" used chemical weapons?! No, that is completely inconceivable. ISIS used chemical weapons?! Yes, that goes without saying. Although the Kurds exposed the new darling of Western media as "the most overhyped military force on the planet" during the siege of Kobane, there is no end in sight to the ISIS hype, much to the dismay of the previous number one boogeyman al-Qaeda. The organization of U.S./NATO puppet Ayman al-Zawahiri is desperately trying to get some attention. Last month, Zawahiri released one of his dubious videos announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent and lately the group threatened China, stressing that Xinjiang needs to be "recovered [into] the shade of the Islamic Caliphate":
Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too

Al-Qaeda central appears to have joined the Islamic State in calling for jihad against China over its alleged occupation of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

This week, al-Sahab media organization, al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the first issue of its new English-language magazine Resurgence. The magazine has a strong focus on the Asia-Pacific in general, with feature articles on both India and Bangladesh, as well as others on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the first issue also contains an article entitled “10 Facts About East Turkistan,” which refers to the name given to Xinjiang by those who favor independence from China. The ten facts seek to cast Xinjiang as a longtime independent state that has only recently been brutally colonized by Han Chinese, who are determined to obliterate its Islamic heritage.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #71

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Much to the dismay of the United States, Russia "has been steadily strengthening its foothold" in Kyrgyzstan in recent years. This became apparent in June of this year, when American troops vacated the important U.S. air base at Manas International Airport after the Kyrgyz government had yielded to Russian pressure and agreed to kick the Americans out. Since 2001, the U.S. had used Manas not only to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, but also to engage in all kinds of nefarious activities. After years of unsuccessful attempts to convince Bishkek of closing the base, the Russians finally got their way a few months ago, marking "Kyrgyzstan’s new era as a Russian client state" according to Alexander Cooley, Deputy Director for Social Sciences Programming at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, which is famous for its anti-Russian bias. Cooley's statement shows that the closure of Manas was a heavy blow for the United States. Moscow lost no time in capitalizing on the departure of U.S. forces and is now apparently planning to expand Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan as well as its base in Armenia [emphasis mine]:
Russia Strengthens Air Defenses With Bases in Belarus and Central Asia

As Moscow moves to bolster its military presence in ex-Soviet allied states, the head of the Russian air force announced that Russia will establish an airbase for fighter jets in eastern Belarus in 2016, state media outlets reported Wednesday.

Colonel General Viktor Bondarev also said Moscow planned to expand its airbases in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

The three nations are members of a loose Russia-dominated security alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has accelerated efforts to create a unified air defense network as the Ukraine crisis reenergizes the West's military powerhouse, NATO.
© Photo AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #70

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After nearly four years of negotiations, the European Union und Kazakhstan finally agreed on a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) during this week's visit to Brussels by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The agreement, which is expected to be signed next year, "aims to boost cooperation in around 30 policy areas including trade and foreign and security policy." Given that the PCA is a far weaker deal than the infamous European Union Association Agreement and that the Kazakh negotiators had been "very careful that the agreement respects their country's commitments to the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union," the Kremlin won't get worked up over the agreement. With the PCA negotiations concluded, Nazarbayev travelled to Minsk to attend summits of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and, most importantly, the Eurasian Economic Union, which welcomed a new member:
Armenia Joins Eurasian Union

After months of delay, Armenia formally joined the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on Friday, drawing praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 


President Serzh Sarkisian signed a corresponding accession treaty with Putin and Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus at a summit of the Russian-led bloc held in Minsk.

Speaking at the gathering, both Putin and Sarkisian expressed hope that the treaty will be ratified by the parliaments of the EEU’s three member states by the end of this year. The Armenian president said his country should be able to “start working from January 1” as a full-fledged member of an alliance which critics fear will restore Russian hegemony over much of the former Soviet Union.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #69

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of this week, the presidents of the five Caspian littoral states gathered in the Russian city of Astrakhan to attend the fourth Caspian Summit. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question of how the Caspian shelf should be divided has been dispute and although Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan made some progress at the recent summit, they remain divided on this key issue. While Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbajev were talking about a "breakthrough", Turkmenistan's leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow reminded everyone of the disagreements when he reiterated that "Turkmenistan believes that the construction of pipelines under the Caspian Sea is the sovereign right of the states through whose section of the seafloor they pass." Berdimuhamedow was of course referring to the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, which is vehemently opposed by Russia and Iran. Moscow and Tehran will have a hard time convincing Berdimuhamedow and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev to give up on this pipe dream but they accomplished another important objective in Astrakhan:
Russia and Iran Lock NATO Out of Caspian Sea

Iran and Russia have built unanimous consensus among the Caspian states, which also feature Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, over the inadmissibility of a foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea, ruling out any future possible deployment of NATO forces in the basin.

A political declaration signed by the presidents of the five Caspian states at the IV Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan, Russia, on September 29, “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian,” according to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of the summit.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #68

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Since the start of China's year-long anti-terror campaign in May of this year, every week new measures are being introduced to contain the terror threat. Of course, the focus is on China's far-west province of Xinjiang, which has seen the most violence. Earlier this month, Chinese prosecutors, especially those in Xinjiang, were asked to fast-track cases involving terrorists, religious extremists and manufacturers of firearms and explosives. Considering that the rewards for people who tip off local authorities about "suspicious activity related to terrorism and religious extremism" are being increased every other day, this anti-terror measure will most likely land a few innocent citizens in jail. But the Chinese authorities are determined to curb the violence in Xinjiang at all costs and they do not want to take chances given the growing influence of extremists among the Muslim population:
China says 'rescues' more children from Xinjiang religious schools

A sweep on illegal religious activity in the capital of China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang has resulted in 190 children being "rescued", along with the detention of dozens of people, a state newspaper said on Monday.

Last month the government said it had "rescued" 82 children in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi from religious schools known as madrassas, and that campaign appears to be continuing.

Children in Xinjiang are prohibited by the government from attending madrassas, prompting many parents who wish to provide a religious education to use underground schools.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Porkins Great Game: Episode #1 - ISIS is everywhere in Central Asia

The wait is finally over: The new podcast series produced by Pearse Redmond and me, Porkins Great Game, is now up and running! This new podcast will deal exclusively with Central Asia and the Caucasus region, and will explore the various geopolitical machinations that compose the “New Great Game.” Porkins Great Game will be a monthly podcast and we really encourage you to be a part of this endeavor. So please follow us on Twitter, @PorkinsPolicy & @NewGreatGame, and feel free to email us with topic suggestions and news stories that pertain to the New Great Game. You can contact me through the contact form on my blog and you can contact Pearse at porkinspolicy@gmail.com.


"The Lone Gladio" reveals Washington's strategy for winning the New Great Game

Sibel Edmonds‘ new novel The Lone Gladio takes the reader on an exciting journey across the globe from Northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan to Southeast Asia and the belly of the beast in the United States. As seemingly disconnected plot strands are brilliantly woven together, we get to see how one of the most important clandestine operations of our time works and who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #67

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

On September 20, 1994, Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev and nine foreign oil companies signed the "Contract of the Century" for the exploration and exploitation of three offshore oil fields in the Caspian Sea. This is hailed as the "beginning of independent Azerbaijan's policy of energy diversification" by the United States and other Western powers. A few days ago, Azerbaijan's embassy in the U.S., state-owned oil and natural gas corporation SOCAR, supermajor BP and the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC), which boasts advisors such as James Baker III, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the "Contract of the Century" in Washington. The key role of Azerbaijan in the Southern Gas Corridor was one of the major topics during the celebrations and the Aliyev regime is doing its best to satisfy the expectations:
Turkey, Azerbaijan break ground for Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline

Turkey's energy minister has declared a gas pipeline a "peace corridor" linking the Caucasus with the Balkans.

"We open the project as a peace corridor that is the result of 15 years hard work by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Through the South Caucasus pipeline and its backbone, the Trans-Anatolia pipeline, we connect the Caucasus with the Balkans. I wish every country could understand the true value of these projects and contribute with us," Taner Yıldız said while speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the South Caucasus pipeline in Baku on Sept. 20.
© Photo Daily Sabah

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #66

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

When the heads of state and the heads of government of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathered in Wales last week for the 2014 NATO summit, Western media made a big fuss about the underwhelming meeting hailing it as "one of the most important summits in NATO's history" but when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held a historic summit in Tajikistan one week later, it did not even make the news in the West. Although the heads of state of the SCO are not exactly on the same page when it comes to Ukraine, they found common ground and they also agreed on a number of other issues. In a swipe at Washington, the SCO leaders condemned any unilateral buildup of missile defense systems and, most importantly, they finally approved the documents for the admission of new members:
SCO approves new procedure for joining organization

The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have approved a new procedure for joining the organization, RIA Novosti reported. 
Memorandum on the obligations of a State wishing to join the SCO was signed after the meeting of the Council of the Heads of the Member States of the SCO in Dushanbe Sept. 12. 
New admission rules will allow including India and Pakistan into the SCO at the next summit in 2015. India and Pakistan have already applied for full membership in the organization.
© Photo RIA Novosti

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #65

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Both the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have started large military exercises with interesting scenarios in the last few days. 3000 soldiers from CSTO members Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan participated in the "Interaction 2014" drills of the CSTO's Collective Rapid Reaction Force, which took place in Kazakhstan this week and involved a scenario with some parallels to the conflict in Ukraine. The CSTO's rapid reaction forces were asked to prevent the destabilization of CSTO member state "Karania" following the coup d'état by "'brown' forces supported by the military-political leadership of several leading governments of the West" in a country bordering Karania. This scenario was most likely promoted by Moscow and Beijing's hand in the scenario of the SCO exercise is equally visible [emphasis mine]:  
SCO exercise Peace Mission 2014 to involve 7,000 troops

The Peace Mission 2014 antiterrorist exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be the largest ever in the organizations’ history, a Chinese military official said on Tuesday.

“It’s the first time that so many troops and so much weaponry have been deployed in joint drills under the SCO aegis,” Wang Ning, chief director of the drilla and deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, told the China Daily newspaper. Drones, Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, air-defense missiles, tanks and armored vehicles have joined the anti-terrorist drills in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region that will be held from August 24 to 29.

The joint exercise scenario involves a separatist organization in a certain country, supported by an international terrorist organization, plotting terrorist attacks and hatching a coup plot to divide the country, Wang said.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #64

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

It is hardly a secret that the conflict in Ukraine has less to do with "Russian aggression" and "European values" than with NATO expansion and Pipelineistan. Even as the NATO-backed Ukrainian regime and Russia are moving closer to a direct military confrontation, all the European Union seems to care about is the stable delivery of gas. After the freaks in Kiev announced that they may halt Russian energy transits through Ukraine, EU officials lost no time in reminding them of Europe's priorities, which can be easily summarized: When Europe has to choose between Ukraine and Russian gas, the gas wins every time. Shortly afterwards, the European Council issued a statement urging Kiev to "to closely coordinate with the European Commission any actions regarding the transportation of Russian gas." With energy transits through Ukraine threatened, Russia's South Stream pipeline blocked and Azerbaijan's Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) still in the works, some countries are now even considering to revive the Nabucco project in order to bring Iranian gas to Europe:
Iran ready to revive Nabucco project, supply gas to Europe

Iran is ready to supply Europe with gas via Nabucco, an abortive gas pipeline project, Iran’s top official said on Monday, adding that two European countries had already showed interest.

As Europe intends to diversify energy resources routes, Iran with its major gas fields could supply gas to Europe via Nabucco, Deputy Minister of Petroleum for international affairs Ali Majedi told Iranian media on Monday, adding that Nabucco would be useless without the Iranian gas.

Delegations from two European countries have visited Iran recently to discuss possible routes for gas deliveries, he said without naming the countries. Majedi said different routes were possible, including supplies via Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Caucasia and the Black Sea, adding that he saw the Turkish route as the best option.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #63

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

A few days ago, Russia responded to the ridiculous Western sanctions and announced retaliatory measures, which will hurt first and foremost the European Union. The Kremlin had given European governments ample opportunity to distance themselves from the reckless U.S. campaign against Russia and was clearly disappointed, when the EU agreed to impose broad economic sanctions on Russia on July 29. During the Ukraine crisis, European leaders have repeatedly acted against European interests by doing Washington's bidding and the EU will now have to pay the price for this. According some estimates, the trade bloc might end up losing about 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) if the economic war escalates. With Russia banning food and agricultural products from the U.S., the EU, Norway, Canada and Australia for one year, some EU countries are already getting a foretaste of what is to come, while Russia is starting talks with more friendly countries to replace the banned products: 
Putin in Trade Talks With Belarusian, Kazakh Presidents in Wake of Food Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev the coordination of trade and economy after Russia imposed food import embargo against a number of Western countries, the Kremlin’s press center said on Thursday.

Russia is going to rely on its economic partners outside the European Union for agricultural imports. At present, it is seeking to replace essential EU deliveries by products from blocs that Russia is a member of, including the fledgling Eurasian Economic Union (EAU) and the BRICS group of emerging economies.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #62

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

In recent weeks, China has introduced a number of extreme measures, such as banning matches and imposing airline-like restrictions on bus passengers, to prevent further terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. Although the one-year-long anti-terror campaign is in full swing and countless suspects have been imprisoned, there is no end in sight to the violence, as demonstrated by several incidents this week. On Monday, "dozens of people" were killed or injured in what has been described as a "premeditated terror attack" by local police. Since the Chinese authorities have tried to release as few information as possible, it is still not exactly clear what happened in Yarkant County in Xinjiang's Kashgar Prefecture. According to several reports, a group of assailants armed with knives and axes attacked a police station and government offices in the town of Elixhu, with some later moving on to the town of Huangdi. A source told the Global Times that the attack occurred after police officers found suspicious explosives and other reports confirmed that the incident began when a group of Uyghurs impeded a police investigation:
20 Uyghurs and 13 Chinese police and officials killed in Yarkant incident

Over 20 Uyghurs and 13 Chinese officials and police officers were killed during an incident on Monday morning in Yarkant county in the Kashgar prefecture of China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

According to Chinese media reports the incident began when 30 Uyghurs impeded an investigation by police officers into "a potential terrorist attack." The resistance soon turned into a massive riot, in which five government buildings and 31 cars were attacked or destroyed.

When around a hundred police officers rushed to the area to contain the riot, they encountered 30 knife-wielding men, which they tried to run over with their cars. Several of the men were reportedly shot dead by police at the scene while others fled to nearby villages. Around 300 people from the villages are then reported to have put up armed resistance to the police, resulting in dozens of civilian injuries and deaths.
© Photo Sihai

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #61

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.
  
The recent Latin America tour of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which ended with the long anticipated creation of the BRICS Development Bank, was very successful and marked another important step on the way towards a multipolar world. During his meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the Russian leader announced that the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan plans to sign a cooperation agreement with Mercosur in early 2015. Although the accession of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan is being delayed time and time again, the Kremlin is absolutely convinced of the EEU. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, the economic union will even have a common currency in the next five to ten years. For now the Russian government is focused on strengthening the ties between the arms industries of the three EEU countries:
Government plans closer ties with arms industries of Belarus, Kazakhstan

The Russian arms industry has developed a plan to replace its Ukrainian suppliers, lost during the latest crisis in this country, with companies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, an influential Russian daily reports.

Deputy PM in charge of the defense sector, Dmitry Rogozin, earlier announced the Russian government would prepare a plan on import replacement in conventional weapons and present it to the President.

On Friday the mass circulation daily Izvestia reported the plan was ready and will be presented as soon as Monday.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #60

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Europe's dependence on Russian gas has been a thorn in Washington's side for quite some time. In recent weeks, the United States and its lackeys in Brussels tried hard to sabotage Gazprom's South Stream pipeline, to no avail. Austria, Italy, Serbia and a few other European countries are not willing to give up on the project. Washington and Brussels will certainly exploit the MH17 tragedy to put more pressure on these "traitors". The U.S. collaborators in Europe have demonstrated repeatedly that they will do everything in their power to reduce Russia's influence in the European energy sector, if necessary at the expense of EU energy security. Gas from the Caspian Sea region is seen as the solution and UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon vowed during his recent visit to Azerbaijan that the West will counteract Russia's attempts to "interfere" with the Southern Gas Corridor. It is not exactly clear which interference Fallon is alluding to but his other statements suggest that he is full of it:
Implementation of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to increase stability in region
The implementation of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline will increase stability in the region, UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon told journalists in Baku.

Commenting on the opinion that Russia's position on the said project is fairly rigid, Fallon noted that the Russia was sanctioned for actions against Ukraine. 
"We will continue to use them in order to make it clear: any escalation of tensions in the southeast of the country will lead to new sanctions. We work on these issues with partners in Europe. The existing tension makes more relevant the issue of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas," Fallon said.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #59

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

While the Western media is still making a fuss about China's 'Ramadan ban', the Chinese authorities continue with their no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign. This week, courts in Xinjiang sentenced three people to life in prison and another 29 to prison terms ranging from four years to 15 years. They were convicted on charges of spreading terror-related audio and video files as well as organizing terrorist groups, making explosives and instigating ethnic hatred. As previously discussed, China is constantly looking for outside assistance in its fight against the 'East Turkestan forces'. So far, Beijing has largely relied on regional cooperation in this regard but, according to recent reports, the Chinese government is now also seeking to tap into the expertise of some more distant countries, which are not exactly allies of China:
China seeking Israeli counter-terror experts

China is recruiting foreign experts in counter-terrorism to assist the training of anti-terror personnel, state-run media reported Thursday, following a spate of deadly attacks which authorities blame on Islamist-inspired separatists.

The People’s Public Security University of China will offer visiting professorships to top specialists in the field from countries including the United States, Israel, Pakistan and Australia, the government-run China Daily said.

“The US and Israel have accumulated rich practical experience in fighting terrorism,” Mei Jianming, director of the university’s Research Center for Counter-terrorism, told the paper.
“The US is advanced in overall strategic research, and Israel is very proficient at tactical action in fighting terrorism.”

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #58

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The situation in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been very tense since the start of the one-year-long anti-terror campaign but the people in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi were particularly anxious on this Saturday because it marked the fifth anniversary of the July 2009 Urumqi riots, when almost 200 people were killed and over 1.700 injured in a series of violent riots over several days. Beijing accused the NED-funded Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and its leader Rebiya Kadeer of planning the riots. Although the Chinese government did not back up this allegation with sufficient evidence, it is not implausible considering the WUC's close ties to Western intelligence and its key role in Washington's East Turkestan project. As usual, Kadeer and the WUC blamed the violence on government repression and the police's use of excessive force. This does not explain the takfiri mobs terrorizing Uyghurs and Han Chinese alike during the riots but nobody is going to deny the repression of the Uyghur population, which is now making the headlines once again:
China Restricts Ramadan Fasting In Xinjiang

Students and civil servants in China's far western region of Xinjiang have been ordered not to take part in fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Statements posted on July 2 on websites of schools and government agencies say the ban aims at protecting students' wellbeing and preventing the promotion of religion in schools and government offices.

Statements on the websites of local Communist Party organizations said members of the officially atheist party also should not fast.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #57

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of this month, the United States handed back its only Central Asian air base to the government of Kyrgyzstan, after the Kyrgyz authorities had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to extend the lease on the Transit Center at Manas. Symbolizing the rocky relationship between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan, a U.S. civilian contractor at the base, who had attempted to rape a local woman, was sentenced to four years in prison on the same day the Americans officially closed the Manas base. Romania is now hosting the Pentagon's Afghanistan air logistics hub but since the Americans do not plan to leave Afghanistan or Central Asia anytime soon, a new Central Asian air base is needed as well:
Uzbekistan may provide Khanabad Airfield to U.S. to replace Kyrgyzstan's Manas

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov and U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the processes within the region, according to an official statement of the press service of the Uzbekistan's Ministry.

Experts believe that the U.S. is looking for a new platform to support its troops in Afghanistan upon the withdrawal from the Kyrgyzstan's Transit Center at Manas Airport.


In Uzbekistan, the U.S. is interested in Khanabad Airfield that had been already provided to them in 2001. However, after the 2005 events in Andijan, the U.S. was expelled from the country for their support of local radicals. In response, Washington imposed a series of sanctions against Tashkent. Five years later, the U.S., however, realized what they had lost and began to seek the resumption of cooperation with Tashkent. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #56

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen continues to dominate the headlines in Turkey. At the beginning of this week, Turkish police detained 11 suspects, including Erdogan's former chief bodyguard and an ex-police chief, in a probe into the wiretapping of the Turkish PM. Gülen's shadowy network has tried to topple Erdogan by all available means, one of which was the leaking of incriminating conversations. Up to this point, all efforts have failed and Erdogan is fighting back with a vengeance. Ever since the conflict intensified, the Turkish PM has made the case for a retrial of the military officers, who were purged in a joint AKP-Hizmet operation, fueling speculation that Erdogan intends to join forces with his old enemies against Gülen. On Wednesday, Turkey's highest court paved the way for this alliance by ordering the release of 230 military officers convicted in the Sledgehammer trial. The power struggle has spread to several countries affecting even the annual Washington conference of the infamous American-Turkish Council (ATC). As previously discussed, the main battleground besides Turkey is Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani authorities did Erdogan another favor this week:
Azerbaijan shuts down ‘Gülen-linked’ schools
Azerbaijan’s government-run energy company has announced that private schools run by affiliates of the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been closed down.
From February to April, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) took over dozens of private high schools, university exam preparation centers and universities run by a Turkish education company called Çağ Ögretim, which is thought to be linked to the Gülen movement. 
SOCAR announced on June 18 that it had decided to close the schools, which were operated by the company now known as Azerbaijan International Education Center, due to “high maintenance costs and difficulties in project management.”